Thursday, July 18, 2024
HomeOpinion‘We have to save America’ this November

‘We have to save America’ this November

It was the day after he made history by securing the Republican Party’s presidential nomination for the third straight time, but Donald Trump was not in a celebratory mood.

He was all business as he looked forward to the fall showdown with Joe Biden

“November 5th will be the most important day in the history of our country, maybe with the exception of July 4, 1776,” he told me.

After a brief pause, he added a second “maybe” to emphasize the gravity he attaches to this election. 

We were sitting at a small table in the bar room of Mar-a-Lago for his first print interview since he won enough delegates to clinch the nomination.

He noted, with a half-smile, that he and Biden had both passed the magic number on the same day. 

A rematch of the 2020 election is something most voters don’t want, but it now appears inevitable.

Although many Democrats grumble about Biden’s age and low approval ratings, Trump said he didn’t see any reason why Biden won’t be the nominee. 

Their contempt is mutual, with Biden incessantly braying about MAGA Republicans and threats to democracy while Trump insisted his successor “f–ked everything up.” 

He described the stakes this way: “It’s not a personality contest. We have to save America.” 

For two hours, the former president responded to questions, often salting his answers with stories about how he had stared down Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and other world leaders during his term in the Oval Office. 

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally Saturday, March 9, 2024, in Rome Georgia. AP

Joe’s Ukraine ‘disaster’ 

Dressed in his customary uniform of blue suit, white shirt, red tie, he occasionally insisted his responses be off the record, such as when asked to explain his boast he could solve the Russian-Ukrainian bloodbath in 24 hours. 

It’s safe to say that’s one of the issues where Trump should be taken seriously but not literally, with his plan essentially a jump-start of final negotiations. 

“This is another Biden disaster, the war didn’t have to happen,” Trump said.

Quoting Hungarian President Viktor Orban, who visited Mar-a-Lago recently, Trump said it was long obvious that Ukraine was “the apple of Putin’s eye” and that Russia is a relentless “war machine.” 

He charged that Biden’s failures to see that reality, along with greenlighting the Russian Nord Stream pipeline to Europe and lifting sanctions Trump imposed on Iran, led to the slaughter in Ukraine and the newfound axis of China, Russia and Iran built around oil and gas.

Supporters react at a campaign rally ahead of remarks from Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. AP

Even North Korea is supplying Russia with munitions for the war. 

For his part, Biden blasted the Orban meeting as proof of Trump’s fondness for dictators.

Trump didn’t exactly deny the charge, saying in a video, “There’s nobody that’s better, smarter or a better leader than Viktor Orban. He’s fantastic.” 

‘Rebuild’ agenda 

He applauded Orban as someone who says: “ ‘This is the way it’s gonna be,’ and that’s the end of it. He’s the boss.” 

During our conversation, two Trump aides were in the room, as was Keith Poole, The Post’s editor-in-chief, who participated in the interview. 

To say Trump has a bold agenda doesn’t fully capture the long list of big things he promises to do.

President Joe Biden meets supporters and volunteers during a campaign event at a home in Saginaw, Michigan. REUTERS

On top is a vow to secure the border and deport many of the millions of illegal migrants who entered in the last three years after Biden opened the floodgates. 

He also pledged to rebuild America’s cities, which he says “are being destroyed by the migrants.” 

“The local police are not allowed to do their jobs anymore,” Trump said, blaming the “radical lunatic left” for the urban hellscapes. 

In a clear warning to mayors and governors, he vowed that “If you want to be a sanctuary city, then you’re not getting any federal money.” 

Mayor Eric Adams speaks to the media during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on 5th Ave on March 16, 2024 in New York City. Getty Images

Did you hear that, Mayor Adams?

How about you, Gov. Hochul

Trump’s plan, if he could pull off the legislation, would flip the script on cities like New York that demand extra federal aid because they made themselves sanctuaries for illegal border crossers. 

He tried something similar in 2017 but after a long court battle, won only the approval to curb a small category of federal funding.

Perhaps the courts will be more sympathetic amid the ballooning migrant population and a rise in crime. 

Trump speaks during a Buckeye Values PAC Rally in Vandalia, Ohio. AFP via Getty Images

After saying that “many of the migrants are tougher than our criminals,” the former president also cited the notorious savagery of MS-13, a violent international gang.

The FBI fears it will team up with a Venezuelan migrant gang suspected of at least 62 robberies in New York. 

“Anytime you have people with swastikas tattooed all over their faces, it’s not going to work out,” Trump deadpanned. 

He aims to engineer a federal takeover of Washington, DC, promising that “We’re going to clean it up and get rid of the slums.”

He pointed to graffiti on historic federal buildings, potholed streets and rampant crime as proof the local government isn’t fit to run the nation’s capital. 

Several other distinct themes emerged, too, including America’s role in the world.

Trump’s domestic populism and acid criticisms of fellow NATO members have led to accusations he is an isolationist.

He argues that is too simplistic. 

European diplomacy 

When I asked if America First means America only, he instantly answered, “No, but it does mean America First.” 

“We have to be active, but I don’t have to be active and stupid,” he said before calling many foreign leaders “wise guys who want to rip off the United States.” 

It was in that context that French President Emmanuel Macron came up. 

Claiming that Macron planned large tariffs on American imports to Paris, Trump says the idea was dropped when he called Macron and threatened “100% tariffs on every f–king bottle of French wine and champagne you send here.” 

Although he was happy that more NATO members are paying for the common defense, he remains annoyed that too much of the burden falls on America. 

President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to his campaign field office in Manchester, New Hampshire. REUTERS

He said the Hamas attack on Israel would not have happened had he been president because of his tough stance on Iran, but has no plans to visit the beleaguered Jewish state before the election. 

“I am not the president, so there is no reason for me to go now,” he said.

“I don’t want to be seen to be as grandstanding.” 

In contrast to Biden, who has been increasingly critical of Israel in a bid to curry favor with American leftists and Muslim Americans, Trump remains very popular in Israel.

He believes he should have won a Nobel Prize for orchestrating the historic Abraham Accords, and I agree. 

Another running theme was the landslide of federal and state cases charging him with crimes and civil violations.

Interim rulings of one kind or another seem to happen nearly every day lately, making it hard to keep score. 

Trump denounced them all, including state cases in New York and Georgia, as “election interference” orchestrated by the Biden White House. 

“It’s how he thinks he can win in November,” Trump said matter-of-factly. 

He’s not alone in seeing a double standard of justice, given that Biden made it clear to Attorney General Merrick Garland he wanted his Republican opponent prosecuted. 

Asked how he deals with so many moving parts in so many big cases, Trump described the onslaught as “almost a part of everyday life. I have gotten used to it.” 

When the subject turned to his GOP primary opponents, he showed surprising respect for Nikki Haley, saying, “I have to admit, she has some talent.” 

Ron DeSantis is another matter.

Trump remains steamed by what he sees as the Florida governor’s betrayal after Trump’s endorsement helped DeSantis win his first term.

He relishes the way DeSantis quickly withdrew and endorsed him after the governor was embarrassed in the Iowa caucuses. 

Trump was right when he accused me and The Post of thinking DeSantis looked like the party’s future just a year ago.

And it’s hard to contest his point that the governor’s signing of legislation banning abortion after six weeks was the final nail in his campaign coffin. 

Trump vowed to fix the border crisis.

Abortion in the post-Roe v. Wade world is proving to be tricky ground for Republicans, with even voters in red states such as Ohio guaranteeing freedom of choice by large majorities. 

Trump, although his three Supreme Court nominees helped overturn Roe, has tread carefully, including in our interview. 

“It’s a hard issue, but you have to allow for exceptions,” he said, citing the usual categories of rape, incest and the mother’s health.

Asked about his view of a suitable cutoff date, he insisted he hasn’t made a decision, saying, “I’m talking to both sides.” 

‘Healthy families’ 

In contrast, he was quick to embrace in vitro fertilization after an Alabama judge ruled that embryos created that way should be considered children. 

Trump immediately called on Alabama GOP lawmakers to protect access to the treatment before it became a new political opening for Dems. 

On his Truth Social network, he wrote that “Under my leadership, the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families. We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder!” 

In the interview, Trump summed up his flexibility with a nod to reality: “You also have to get elected.” 

Whether his focus on winning will lead him to curb his acid tongue is unclear. 

His view is that his leadership abilities and a strong policy agenda should be enough, especially because the vast majority of voters see Biden’s presidency as a failure. 

“My message is one of safety, security and a strong economy, and I think it’s a good message,” he said. 

Perhaps, but that message and good results failed him in 2020.

And there is no doubt his habit of engaging in nasty name calling and petty feuds helped wear out his welcome.

Haley’s charge that he creates too much chaos rings true, too. 

After the election came his shameful conduct around the Capitol riot and the endless accusations of a rigged outcome, all of which remain a drag on his standing. 

Dissatisfied Dems 

To be fair, there are fewer of those outbursts lately, but polls show that many voters, especially independents, need more proof before giving him a second chance. 

Even surveys showing him with modest leads over Biden are not that impressive when you realize that despite Biden’s disastrous performance and cognitive decline, the race still remains a toss-up. 

To illustrate the point, and without giving him names, I told Trump about two New Yorkers who have known him for many years. 

Both are lifelong Democrats, but are distressed by Biden’s tenure and the far-left stranglehold on the party that is spurring the disgusting display of antisemitism. 

Yet both separately told me they are hesitant about Trump because they worry he will add to the polarization and try to change the Constitution to be president for life. 

My back and forth about them and others who need to be assured left me uncertain about Trump’s view. 

At one point, he repeated, as if by rote, the words: “We love Trump’s policies, but we don’t love Trump.” 

Another time, he insisted that what voters want, especially suburban women, “are safety and security,” before asking: “Do I have to say it in a nice manner?” 

I’m not sure if he was being sarcastic or sincere, but either way, the answer for any candidate is the same: being more likable to more people is a good thing.

This story originally appeared on NYPost

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments